JetBlue Cuts While Southwest Grows

JetBlue, Schedule Changes, Southwest

Greetings from Airlineville. On the surface, it was another quiet week for our fine residents, but underneath, there was more action than you might think.

The Eagle extended its effort to shun small cities while the Widget did all sorts of housecleaning. The Animal made his holiday plans while both Pualani and Ms Blue each took an axe to October plans very late in the game. The Heart built up November, but the Globe was thinking longer term.

All that and more this week. Like sands through the hourglass, so are the skeds of air lines.

Alaska Loves Reno

To be clear, Alaska didn’t do much this week. It cut one daily flight from LA to Santa Rosa through Nov 19, and it made some tweaks on the Monday after Thanksgiving. But the most notable change was that it has now doubled frequency on the LA – Reno route from 1x daily to 2x… before it even started. This is quite the competitive market for no good reason.

Allegiant Suffers in Canada

While Allegiant may not fly outside the US, it sure caters to Canadians a lot. That’s likely why it cut frequency from Niagara Falls and Ogdensburg (both in New York near the border) to Orlando/Sanford. If Canadians can’t cross the border, those flights don’t succeed.

American Small City Cuts

American’s cut service to 11 small cities back in October when the CARES Act expired. It had held off extending that cut, hoping that more government funding would come. It hasn’t, and it likely won’t for awhile. These cuts were just extended through the November schedule. We’ll see if the government does anything in the next month.

American made some Caribbean/Latin tweaks, but sifting through the noise, there were three other changes that stood out. First, London – Chicago is being downgauged from a 777-300ER all the way to a 787-8 through the winter. Second, some Phoenix routes are already getting more service this winter, including Cincinnati and Nashville. Third, American moved some Cancun flights from Chicago to Philly this winter.

Delta Cleans Up

Delta had a whole lot of seemingly unconnected changes this week. Oddly, Delta decided to grow service in November from Atlanta to Baltimore, Newark, and Philly, but it’s cutting at LaGuardia. I can’t quite figure that one out, but it seems worth noting.

Atlanta – Santiago, Boston – Charleston, and Incheon – Manila all had their restarts delayed into December. Cancun – JFK loses some frequencies, but Cancun – Detroit gets an A330 on some flights.

Lastly, next summer, Atlanta – London drops from 2x daily to 1x daily while Delta starts 1x daily Seattle – London. The problem is, I don’t know if this is just a swap with Virgin Atlantic or not. We might simply see Virgin move an airplane from Seattle to Atlanta in a future schedule change to even things out.

Frontier Loads the Holidays

Frontier loaded schedules from Dec 17 through Jan 3. It plans on operating much more in the second half of December (about 75 percent of last year’s flights) versus the first half (about 50 percent of last year’s flights). Growth appears focused on Denver while East Coast saw more cuts.

Hawaiian Culls Interisland

Hawaiian already cut its interisland schedules in November, but this week it made a late pulldown for the end of October. I’m not sure why the airline waited so long. Maybe it got a deal with its pilots or something that allowed the late change, so it pulled the trigger. There is so much frequency in most markets that it shouldn’t be a big passenger impact. Kahului to Kona and Lihu’e are the two exceptions.

Hawaiian also cut flights to Lana’i and Moloka’i through the end of the schedule. It has announced it is suspending ‘Ohana regional service, because its pilot contract won’t allow it if any Hawaiian mainline pilots are on furlough. That is bad news for those islands which now lose cargo capacity and the ability to get a wheelchair off the island.

JetBlue’s Late Cuts

JetBlue also got into the late October cut game, but it was much more extensive. From October 20 – 31, JetBlue cut about 10 percent of flights across its network. That’s a really big cut for being so last minute. It’s hard to understand how that makes sense when crew schedules were likely already built out and flights were booked up. (Obviously they weren’t booked up well enough, but still.)

In other news, JetBlue jumped into Montrose with flights from LA, Boston, and New York. That is now one crowded market.

Southwest Builds November

While JetBlue cuts October, Southwest goes in the exact opposite direction for November. The airline is increasing flights by 6 percent between November 4 and December 1. This fits with the usual pattern for Southwest to cut early and then add back later, but this was a pretty sizable add.

United Makes Several Moves

We knew it would be a busier week for United when it announced a big Latin expansion. I won’t get into those details since the airline put out a press release, but there were two other things that grabbed me.

United also added several small domestic routes in the upcoming schedule. Air Wisconsin will fly from Allentown, Erie, and Pensacola to Dulles and from both Fort Walton Beach and Panama City to Chicago. It was a good weekend for the Florida Panhandle. Mesa will also begin Key West to Houston.

At the other end of the spectrum, there was a big shuffle in widebody flying. A whole bunch of 767 and 777 flying was moved into 787s. The reduction was up to a quarter of block hours on some of those fleets, so it will be very interesting to see what that means for United’s fleet plan.

And that’s it for this week. Stay tuned next week for a thrilling new episode.

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15 comments on “JetBlue Cuts While Southwest Grows

  1. Can someone explain exactly why ‘Ohana’s suspension means no wheelchair service to Lana’i and Moloka’i. Is it that the smaller planes other airlines fly cargo holds are too small for a wheelchair? Its impossible to push a ramp up for step-free access?

    It seems like it should be blatantly illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act, although i know airlines are covered under and get away with things that land-based public transportation modes would never get away with under the Air Carriers Act.

    1. Subway – I believe it’s an issue related to size (and the size of the door on the Caravans which are the only aircraft remaining) and the weight.

  2. My guess on the Delta changes has to do with the NY quarantine.

    While both NJ and NY have quarantine from GA, only NY enforces it. NJ does not. So many who live in NY, will fly into NJ and commute home from there.

  3. I’m not sure this is necessary the right strategy long term, but JetBlue is basically looking at everything 1 or 2 weeks out and canceling any flights that look like they won’t be cash positive. It shouldn’t be a surprise at this point a lot of flights out of NYC/Boston are just not meeting that threshold.

  4. I wish you would do a column about how the FAA is dragging its feet on the MAX. Even the EAA, who worship at the Airbus altar, has authorized the MAX for revenue service.
    Could it be that the FAA Administrator, a former Delta pilot, is moving with “an abundance of caution”….that is, until Delta strikes a deal for the 40 white tailed MAX? And could it be that his MAX stunt flight was a Sales Demo flight in disguise? Of course, this will receive howls of protest, but the fact that Delta is the ONLY carrier among the Big 4 that doesn’t have the MAX coupled with the European return-to-service make this inaction speak quite loudly in Chicago and Dallas.

    1. No, think about it. The FAA wants another authority to be the first to authorize the MAX to fly again. They get to say that they didn’t rush it and if anything further happens they can point to someone else.

    2. MissTheMasters – I can’t say I know the FAA is dragging its feet. I tend to believe that all these conspiracy theories are highly unlikely, that the administrator is somehow a secret Delta agent. It just doesn’t seem plausible. The reality in my mind is that the FAA had egg on its face after the mess with the MAX in the first place, so it wants to be very careful before it gives the a-ok. And frankly, there’s no need for that capacity right now anyway.

      1. Not trying to be argumentative here, but there certainly is demand for MAX capacity. Don’t you think UA, AA, and WN wouldn’t love to burn 14% less fuel than a regular 737-800? That’s the equivalent of flying 7 MAX flights (of same length/time) and getting the 8th flight for free (in terms of fuel). Now that the “one million pax-per-day” barrier has fallen and loads are growing during a time of the year when they are normally flat (or yields decreasing), I think there is a demand for the aircraft. With so much capacity out of the market, it makes total sense to use a MAX instead of a “Straight 8.”

        1. MissTheMasters – Sure, they’d like to have more fuel efficient airplanes, but they’d also rather not have to pay for them. It’s all a tradeoff, and in the short term, whatever conserves the most cash is best.

    3. The comment about “…in Chicago and Dallas” should more correctly say “…in Chicago and Fort Worth.”

      While I am not a member of the Amon Carter Fan Club, it should be noted that AA’s HQ is within the Fort Worth city limits.

  5. It doesn’t seem like they’re planning on it, but I wonder if running weight restricted 717s into Moloka’i and Lana’i is viable. I’ve done HNL-MKK on the DC-9-51; if memory serves they ran triangle routes HNL-MKK-LNY-HNL and HNL-LNY-MKK-HNL. And I remember Aloha advertising 737 jet service to LNY at one point as well. So it seems like it should be possible from a technical perspective, and with COVID suppressing demand, the weight restriction might not even be a factor (cargo might be a problem rather than passengers).

    Hawaiian used the jets after retiring the Dash 7. At one point they also code-shared with Mahalo (the time I took the jet the return MKK-HNL flight was on a Mahalo ATR 42). I think they also started partnering with Island Air after it was spun off from Aloha.

    1. David M – In their DOT filing to request early ending of service, Hawaiian said that a 717 wasn’t feasible for runway and weather reasons. So I guess that’s not an option at this point.

      1. The runway on Moloka’i is 4500’ long. The one on Lanai is 5000’, but it is at 1600’ elevation.

        That is just too short for regular 717 operations. You could put one on that is very weight restricted, but on a warm day or with even minor crosswinds you would have cancel.

  6. The MAX is a lemon frankensteined using the design of a 707. No way would I fly on that piece of garbage.

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